Saturday 19 November 2011

Big Alcohol = Big Tobacco

A bit more schadenfreude for the nonsmoking drinkers who applaud the anti-smoking campaign while expecting their own vice to be left alone. As I said yesterday in relation to quisling pub supremo Ted Tuppen...

Do you really think it is wise, as the head of a pub company, to equate alcohol with cigarettes? There are enough temperance nuts doing that already without you helping them out.

Five years ago this would have been outrageous hyperbole, but things move pretty quickly in 'public' health. Five years ago I don't recall anyone ever seriously using the term 'Big Alcohol'. Big Tobacco, sure. Big Oil, sometimes. But 'Big Alcohol'—not so much.

That's all changing.

How's that for guilt by association? Alcohol Concern Wales—for it is they—have created a document which contrasts statements from the tobacco industry with statements from the alcohol industry. They're both the same, doncha see?

The logic here is lame even by temperance standards. They take no account of whether the statements might be true, for a start. They have dredged the internet and found comments that are roughly similar and that is enough for them.

And when I say roughly similar, I mean similar as in they're both spoken in English and involve words. Take this, for example....

“The Lorillard Tobacco Company today announced the launch of a nationwide youth smoking prevention programme. in addition to the funds Lorillard and other companies have committed to the...youth smoking prevention and education programme.”
Lorillard Tobacco Company Press Release (1999)

“It is only through education, coupled with targeted interventions against misusers, that we can ultimately change the drinking culture...”
David Poley, Chief Executive of the Portman Group (2010)

Uncanny, eh? A tobacco company announces the launch of a youth smoking prevention programme (as it was required to do under the Master Settlement Agreement) and the Portman Group announces that, er, education and targeted interventions are essential to change the drinking culture. Both statements include the words "education" and "the". It's really quite spooky.

Or take this...

“[Increasing the price of cigarettes] discriminates against those who can least afford it. Increasing tobacco duty could cost the government billions of pounds...The Chancellor said the government’s policy on tobacco will reduce smoking. It’s not the government’s role to force people to quit.”
Simon Clark, Director of smokers’ lobby group Forest (2011)

“It is worrying that in the midst of a recession, when sales and consumption of alcohol are falling, that the Government should be talking about raising prices for all consumers, at a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Jeremy Beadles, Chief Exec. of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (2009)

Let's take the first quote. Clark is saying that cigarette taxes are regressive (clearly true), that very high prices increase smuggling (also true) and that it is not the government's job to force people to stop smoking (a moral question, but a valid opinion).

Beadles, however, is simply saying that increasing the price of a product used by 90% of the population during a recession will make people worse off. He is not referring to the poor, to smuggling, nor to whether the government should be trying to stop people drinking.

These comments have very little in common except they refer to taxes. In the minds of Alcohol Concern, however, any industry that opposes tax hikes on its products is following the Big Tobacco template. As they say on their 'glancesheet' ('Glantz sheet'?):

This glancesheet shows how arguments previously put forward by tobacco companies and lobbyists, to delay or prevent tighter regulation of the industry, have now been adopted by the alcohol industry to protect its own interests.

There should be a version of Godwin's Law for anyone who resorts to comparing an industry with the tobacco industry for rhetorical purposes, with extra marks for using the word 'Big' (capitalised, natch). To the neo-prohibitionists, any industry that dares to challenge them is "recycling Big Tobacco arguments" and, therefore, can be ignored.

The irony is that there is a template being copied here and it is being copied very precisely. The temperance lobby is demonising industry, demanding higher taxes, calling for a total ban on advertising, playing the 'think of the children' card, using junk statistics and talking about 'passive drinking'.

Now who did they get from, I wonder?


Anonymous said...

" the 'think of the children' card"

Every penny spent on tabacco/booze control could go to prevent these numbers.

In 2006, more than 36 million died of hunger or diseases due to deficiencies in micronutrients.

According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality, present in half of all cases.

Six million children die of hunger every year.

Gary K.

jredheadgirl said...

"Now who did they get from, I wonder? "

Lol.....I have nooooooo idea whatsoever:-)

Neil G said...

Does anyone know of the legality of organisations like Alcohol Concern Wales, ASH and Our Life using public money to campaign politically?

In local government there is the Local Government Publicity Code, backed by the Local Government Act. It forbids the use of public money for political ends.

Quite right.

What about the NHS etc using public money for politics? Does anyone know?

It is certainly against the spirit of democracy. Is it also against the law?

How can we enforce the law (if one exists)?

Fredrik Eich said...

Chris, did you ever study at the university of Sussex or Brighton uni?

Christopher Snowdon said...


Charities in the UK are allowed to lobby, unlike in the US (but they can't lobby for political parties).


No. Why?

wriggles said...

Don't forget "Big Food". Perhaps someone should start "Big Health" just to add to the fun.

Anonymous said...

Neil G, I was under the impression that charities cannot lobby for changes in Gov policy. I noticed in Frank Davis' transcription of the Nicky Campbell phone-in that Deborah Arnott mentioned ASH Uk had acted as secretariat for some House of Commons Committee concerned with smoking. I am sure this is not permitted, but nothing will be done unless enough of us contact the Charity Commissioner.

Neil G said...

Anon and Chris,
I think that charities CAN lobby for changes in govt policy.
And we all know that the govt has given money to charities so that they can campaign politically while the govt itself could not openly spend public money on political campaigns.
That is the nub of the problem. It is against the spirit of the constitution.
99 per cent of money going to Our Life in the NW is taxpayers' money. Try to FOI it tho - and you get told they have been constituted as an industrial and providential society. In other words, it is public money being spent in a way that is hidden from view.
There must be something we can do - and I accept your suggestion that we should all contact the Charity Commission.
I'll do that.

Ann W. said...

"anyone who resorts to comparing an industry with the tobacco industry for rhetorical purposes, with extra marks for using the word 'Big' (capitalised, natch). To the neo-prohibitionists, any industry that dares to challenge them is "recycling Big Tobacco arguments" and, therefore, can be ignored."

I suggest someone write up this up in
wikipedia under "Snowdon's Law"

Anonymous said...

Smoking ban cuts cardiac events 45%, Mayo Clinic says

Read more:

Leg-iron said...

There has laready been mention of 'Big Salt'.

It can only be a matter of time before one of the banmeisters starts banging on, straight-faced, about 'Big Cheese'.

Dunhillbabe said...

@Gary K
Indeed. Begs the question then, why are the WHO wasting so much time, effort and money on mainly white, educated smokers, living sanitary and well nourished lives,making an informed (ad nauseum) choice to smoke, and who, even if they do smoke, will probably live many, many more years than any of the children to whom you refer,should they make it to an impoverished adulthood, even if they never smoke. Why don't the WHO turn its attentions and resources to the children who need them, rather than smokers, who don't?